The top of the website for cannabis company Ben’s Best Blnz’s declares, “Our Mission is to sell Great Pot and use the power of our business to Right the Wrongs of the War on Drugs.” The bold new brand founded by Ben Cohen (co-founder of Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream) is on a mission to raise awareness around the disproportionate rate at which Black people are arrested for using cannabis and address these injustices head on. 100% of B3’s profits go directly back into the Black cannabis community and help fund groups advocating for criminal justice reform. 10% of their profits go to the Last Prisoner Project, another 10% goes to the The Vermont Racial Justice Alliance, and 80% is allocated to grants administered by the NuLeaf Project that benefit Black cannabis entrepreneurs.
These noble goals and business model deserved a brand identity to match. Now, thanks to the exemplary design work of Pentagram, Ben’s Best Blnz has the look and feel to achieve this greatness.
As a self-described “old white guy,” Cohen was intentional about creating a nonprofit cannabis company that directly supported and worked with Black entrepreneurs. This commitment extended into the branding design process. The design team, Led by Pentagram Partner Eddie Opara, developed an eye-catching brand identity and packaging system that prominently features the work of Black artists and designers. The system harnesses vibrant colors in graphic brush stroke textures along with loud and varied typefaces inspired by protest graphics.
B3 wanted to stand out visually in the already jam-packed cannabis space, which is dominated by certain tired visual motifs like marijuana leaves and green hues. To underpin what sets B3 apart in this field, Pentagram created a visual language that focuses on the brand’s message over their marijuana.
“The goal for the Ben’s Best graphics was to be honest and artful— to reflect the quality of our products and the social mission of our brand,” Cohen said on Pentagram’s website. “The focus on this issue is something that a lot of other brands might mention, but virtually no other brand makes it so prominent. Pentagram helped us to integrate typefaces created by Black designers and original artwork by Black artists into our packaging, which is our major form of marketing.”
Expressive typography is the core of Pentagram’s creation, primarily featuring fonts from Vocal Type Foundry (founded by Tré Seals) that highlight critical moments in history for marginalized communities, like the Civil Rights Movement in America and the Women’s Suffrage Movement in Argentina. Additional type in the B3 system was designed by Joshua Darden.
The B3 logo was designed with flexibility in mind, composed of dynamic letterforms that can shift in size and scale. It can also be used as a framing device for imagery within graphics throughout the website, on social, and in the product packaging.
Another priority for B3 was creating eco-friendly packaging, and Cohen worked closely with Pentagram to ensure as many components as possible were sustainably made and recyclable. As such, the team opted for materials such as tin, glass, metal, and cardboard over the common plastic standards. In addition to these important material considerations, Pentagram was thoughtful in the visuals and copy adorning the packaging. The products are covered in calls to action to decarcerate and deschedule cannabis, along with powerful quotations from Black leaders like Angela Davis and Nelson Mandela. Every package also features a small ice cream cone icon as a subtle homage to Cohen’s Ben & Jerry’s roots.
“The packaging is deliberately heavy on type and text; it is designed to be explored and discovered over time as the reusable tin lays around the house,” Cohen elaborates via Pentagram. “At times we thought of the packaging as an artfully designed Dr. Bronner’s soap bottle. But it turned out to be so much more than that.”
The frenetic typography is layered with the work of Black artists, including two commissioned pieces from multimedia artist Dana Robinson and Opara himself (see below, respectively).
B3 will launch its initial line at local dispensaries in Cohen’s home state of Vermont, and their full range of products is viewable on B3’s website now.
Pentagram Partner: Eddie Opara
Project Team: Jack Collins, Raoul Gottschling, Ruben Gijselhart, Dana Reginiano
Collaborators: Claudia Mandlik, photographer; Dana Robinson, illustration; Vocal Type, typography; Darden Studio, typography; Michael Justiz, type animations; Jacob Macdonald, web development